Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tortillas

Inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and fam, I've been thinking more about eating seasonally, locally, and thereby, more healthfully and flavorfully. We're already living rather simply, but sometimes I cut corners in ways that compromise the quality of our meals. We're not eating packaged ramen or mac & cheaze, but the wine has been getting cheaper and I occasionally venture into Grocery Outlet for whatever good stuff I can find on the cheap (recent finds include frozen edamame originally from Whole Foods and anchovies for .99/tin).

But Kingsolver and her co-authors helped me rethink my notion of organic, local eating as an elite luxury for those with excess discretionary income. They demonstrate that making one's own bread and cheese isn't out of reach to everyone but Martha, and that buying seasonally at farmer's market can bring gems of the garden even with my cheap-o spending habits.

So today I took a pleasant walk to our neighborhood's farmers' market and brought home a few budget goodies. One of these days, I'm going to bring home a bushel of something and preserve it for culinary luxury into fall (likely, tomatoes, basil, or something else that's overpriced and underflavored at the grocery store). Next, my plan is to experiment with making my own sandwich bread, tortillas, and queso blanco. I started with the tortillas, the least demanding of the three.

This pleasant labor threw me back to when I was a kid, helping my Grandma Cabrales make tortillas back in Augusta, Kansas. Her movements were second-nature, swift, and gentle. She would roll the soft dough into little balls, quickly knead them with her thumbs to form little discs, roll them out thin, then pat them back and forth between her hands before slapping them on the griddle. My method wasn't so well-practiced, my rolling pin too big, and my dough too glutinous. I wish could consult her, or at least watch her at this task that she likely performed most of her adult days.

What's Cooking Grandma? is an online video project where you can upload video of your grandmother making your favorite recipes to preserve the moment, method, recipe, and memories. I wish I had such a document of my grandmother making tortillas, sopa, tripe. What do you wish you could see your grandmother making?

2 comments:

Joe said...

I believe The Mrs. read the same piece. I love making bread, but the breads I want to make usually take a lot more time than I have. I guess I could get up at 3 and get the dough rising.

Tortillas. My mom used to make her own. She, like your grandmother, had a way about making them. She doesn't make them anymore - but I can still hear the rhythm of her hands with the rolling pin on the dough which is on the cutting board. I use my counter top and scrape residue off later...she used a cutting board. There was simple elegance and a sound I will take with me to my grave in her making of homemade tortillas. It is a sound I have tried to mimic when attempting to make my own tortillas...it is a simple sound of wonderful bread that fed me as a child.

Tasha said...

I would love to have made a video of my Grandma Bell making pie. She had a wonderful garden in the backyard inspired by Depression Era DIY practicality that taught me everything I know about organic permaculture principles. Rhubarb. Raspberries. You name it. And she folded a pie dough with such tenderness. There was such amazing strength and gentleness in her hands as she made those pies well into her nineties.

I'd also like a video of my Grandpa Bell making wine. He was a creative connoiseur becoming a vintner of jerusalem artichokes, kiwis, blackberries, and other garden finds.

My grandparents taught me to savour every bite...and not feel guilty for going back for a second helping if everyone at the table was full!